<< Back to Newsletter

Incubator Initiative Reinforces NJ's Reputation as a Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Mecca

New Jersey is widely recognized as a leader in producing clean and efficient energy. Two New Jersey business incubators focus exclusively on supporting new energy enterprises. Recently, these two incubators collaborated and launched an initiative called the New Jersey Clean Energy Resource Network (NJCERN). The initiative represents a comprehensive business development strategy for energy companies in New Jersey.

The management at New Jersey’s two energy-focused incubators — the Rutgers EcoComplex and the Meadowlands Business Accelerator — initially conceived of a website as a solution to an information problem. “In the incubators, people would come to us with questions,” said Margaret Brennan-Tonetta, Ph.D., the associate vice president for economic development at Rutgers University who oversees the Rutgers EcoComplex. “We’d go to websites trying to find the answers for them. We realized how helpful it would be to have all this information in one place.”

As the vision of the project expanded, the collaboration of the two incubators grew into NJCERN. “The project morphed into a strategy for how we could better draw startup companies to New Jersey and our incubators,” said Michel Bitritto, Ph.D., director of the Meadowlands Commission Business Accelerator.
The collaborators now include the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA). The coordination with state agencies makes NJCERN a comprehensive service that not only supports startup energy companies, but also supports the New Jersey Partnership for Action and the objectives of the New Jersey Master Energy Plan.

There are three elements of the NJCERN program. First is the NJCERN Database, a web-based guide that clearly identifies advantages of doing business in New Jersey. It provides, in one centralized location, over 300 links to state, federal, and private resources. The site is optimized so that when anyone is searching on energy in New Jersey, this page will be one of the first to come up. The website was designed by JD Giron, a company located at the Meadowlands Business Accelerator that won the contract through a statewide competitive bid.

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities is committed to supporting the ongoing maintenance of the NJCERN website through its clean energy program budget, which is approved annually by the board. “We need to get the messages about the energy-saving programs to our target audiences and to coordinate that with the NJ Business Action Center and NJBIN,” said Robert M. Hanna, Esq., president of BPU. “This website is going to contribute greatly to that. I’m looking forward to seeing this, and I think you can count on the board to support great ideas like this.”

“This is the most extensive database for energy resources in the country,” said Brennan-Tonetta. “One of the purposes of the website is to make it clear that New Jersey is an easy place to do business. All the resources are right there for them. It’s something the state can be really proud of.”

The second element of NJCERN is the Clean Energy Business Cluster Strategic Plan. This is a strategy for optimally leveraging existing resources. It provides a roadmap for developing previously unavailable resources vital to clean energy business development. The plan will be implemented by the Rutgers EcoComplex in collaboration with relevant public and private partners.

The third element of NJCERN is the New Jersey Clean Energy Innovation Workgroup. This workgroup is a team of experts from academia and government that evaluates the paths, technologies and businesses that will help New Jersey achieve a sustainable clean energy future. It will provide evaluation of new business concepts for project developers, entrepreneurs and investors to accelerate the development of a vibrant clean energy industry in the state.

“The working group will have all the experts around the table,” said Brennan-Tonetta. “The group will evaluate whether or not the company has potential to succeed. If yes, the group will help them to get off the ground.”

The next step for the NJCERN Database is identifying contacts at each New Jersey state agency that can help the program team keep the information updated. The program team will also be conducting informational seminars to help the state agency contacts to keep it up-to-date. The ongoing financial support of BPU makes the ongoing upkeep possible.

Visit the NJCERN Database at http://njcern.rutgers.edu.

The National Business Incubation Association (NBIA) is the world’s leading organization advancing business incubation and entrepreneurship. Each year, it provides thousands of professionals with information, education, advocacy and networking resources to bring excellence to the process of assisting early-stage companies. An elected, voting board of directors representing the world's leading incubators governs the association.

The New Jersey Business Incubation Network (NJBIN) is a collaborative statewide community of business experts, resources and facilities dedicated to enhancing the commercial success of early-stage entrepreneurial companies, growing higher paying jobs in New Jersey and supporting the Economic Growth Strategy for the State.

Copyright © 2012 NBIA